Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Kylian Mbappe's rise toward level of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo evident in Golden Shoe standings

French striker has scored 30 goals this season to fire PSG to the league title

Monaco, the last club to prevent Paris Saint-Germain sweeping to a French league title, know all too well how hard it is to contain Kylian Mbappe.

They could not keep him tied down when he was 18, not when PSG were bidding over €100 million (Dh413.2m) to take him to France’s capital.

Monaco could not contain Mbappe on Sunday night either, as he struck his third hat-trick of the Ligue 1 season on the day PSG, 3-1 winners over Mbappe’s former club, confirmed their sixth championnat in seven years.

The record-books will soon be straining to hold him back, too. Mbappe is now just four goals short of 100 in senior football for his clubs and his country, France. And he turned 20 only four months ago.

Mbappe reached the landmark of 30 goals for the league campaign against Monaco, not quite enough to put him at the top of the race for the Golden Shoe, the award for the best marksman in European league football.

But he will acknowledge that merely to be in the joust for that award, with five matches to go and with a pacesetter as distinguished as Lionel Messi the only man ahead of him is a compliment to his progress.

Messi’s 33 Barcelona goals in La Liga have come at a rate of a goal every 74 minutes; Mbappe’s Ligue 1 strikes have a ratio of one per 72 minutes. Comparisons are imperfect, of course, and consensus would have it that the overall standard of competitiveness in Spain’s top division is higher than in a French top-flight that PSG master with a disdainfully comfortable swagger on many weekends.

The Golden Shoe system has certain devices to adjust for the toughness of a league. But it regards the top five European domestic leagues as more or less equal, awarding two points per goal for players working in La Liga, the Premier League, the Bundesliga, Serie A and France’s leading division.

Goals in Portugal, the Netherlands or Turkey are valued at 1.5 points per game, so while Galatasaray’s Mbaye Diagne may have 28 from his remarkable season, one in which he transferred to the Istanbul giants in the winter break from Kasimpasa, having scored 20 times in 17 matches, he is well shy of challenging Messi and Mbappe.

Third in the rankings right now is an evergreen entertainer. Fabio Quagliarella, who celebrated his 36th birthday in January, has been on the books of nine different Italian clubs, including Juventus, but never hit a run of form like this season at Sampdoria.

His back catalogue features eye-catching strikes - bicycle-kicks, long-range dippers - but once he had left his old club Napoli gasping at the audacity of his backheeled volley for Sampdoria against them in September, he set about accumulating the everyday goal as well as the odd worldie.

Quagliarella has 22 Serie A goals so far this season, three more than Cristiano Ronaldo has for freshly-crowned champions, Juventus. Ronaldo needs one more to reach 20 for a league season for the 11th time in his stellar career, but it is unusual for Messi not to be glancing over his shoulder at his great rival in the table of Golden Shoe candidates.

Ronaldo is outside the top 10, in a clutch of fine finishers all one goal away from 20 for the league campaign: Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero are also locked together in 11th place.

Ronaldo has won the Golden Shoe four times. Only one man has more. That man is favourite to add a sixth title, and set another milestone with his third such award in succession. Messi’s tally for this season has been boosted by his developing skill with direct free-kicks, from which he has five Liga goals so far in 2018-19.

Mbappe, who is not yet PSG’s first choice launcher of a dead ball, will take note. Even Messi, at 31, keeps finessing his game, adding to his assets, and drawing in the prizes.

Updated: April 22, 2019 04:05 PM

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